This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) with answers, compiled
for the UseNet newsgroup rec.sport.fencing. It is intended to reduce
repetitive discussions on the Net by addressing commonly raised topics.
This document is maintained by Morgan Burke (mor...@sitka.triumf.ca).
Contributions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.
Most of the questions and answers pertain to FIE (Olympic) Fencing;
Japanese fencing (kendo, kenjustsu, iaido, etc.) is treated in a
separate FAQ list ("Japanese Sword Arts") that can occasionally be
found in the newsgroups rec.sport.fencing or rec.martial-arts, or on
the IAIDO-L mailing list (see section 3.8 for details). The Japanese
Sword Arts FAQ is maintained by Neil Gendzwill (gendzw...@SEDSystems.ca).
The Fencing FAQ is presented in three parts:
1. GENERAL: common questions about starting fencing, training, and
rules of competition
2. EQUIPMENT: fencing equipment, maintenance, and troubleshooting
3. REFERENCE: organizations, suppliers, reading materials, net
resources, glossary, etc.
All parts can be found on the UseNet newsgroups rec.sport.fencing,
rec.answers, or news.answers. Otherwise, consult section 3.8 for
information on finding archived copies of this document. An HTML
version is available on request.
Here's a quick guide to some of the more persistent topics on
- Finding equipment retailers - see section 3.2
- Finding a fencing club - see section 1.10
- Modern sport vs. classical martial art - see sections 1.2, 1.3
- Legality of Spanish and Italian grips - see section 2.7.1
- Analysis and priority - see sections 1.13, 1.14, 1.15, 1.16
- Flicks - see sections 1.14, 1.17
- Weapon maintenance and repair - see sections 2.8, 2.10, 2.12, 2.14, 2.15, 2.16, 2.17
PART 1 : General
1.1 What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?
1.2 How did fencing originate?
1.3 How is modern fencing different from the "real thing"?
1.4 Which is the best weapon?
1.5 Is fencing going to be eliminated from the Olympics?
1.6 Does it hurt?
1.7 How long does it take to become good?
1.8 What qualities make a good fencer?
1.9 How much does it cost to get involved in fencing?
1.10 How do I find a good fencing club?
1.11 What kind of cross-training will help my fencing?
1.12 How can I improve my technique without the help of a coach?
1.13 What is right of way?
1.14 What constitutes an attack?
1.15 What constitutes a parry?
1.16 What constitutes a point-in-line?
1.17 What is the scoop on "flicks" and "whips"?
1.18 What are the latest rule changes?
1.1 What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?
The Olympic sport of fencing is comprised of three weapons: foil,
epee, and sabre. All are fenced on a long rectangular strip, and
electronic scoring aids are normally used to assist in the
detection of touches. The rules governing these three weapons
are determined by the FIE (Federation Internationale d'Escrime).
Briefly, the FIE weapons are described as follows:
Foil: Descended from the 18th century small sword, the foil has a
thin, flexible blade with a square cross-section and a small
bell guard. Touches are scored with the point on the torso of
the opponent, including the groin and back. Foil technique
emphasizes strong defense and the killing attack to the body.
Epee: Similar to the duelling swords of the late 19th century,
epees have stiff blades with a triangular cross section,
and large bell guards. Touches are scored with the point,
anywhere on the opponent's body. Unlike foil and sabre, there
no rules of right-of-way to decide which attacks have precedence,
and double hits are possible. Epee technique emphasises timing,
point control, and a good counter-attack.
Sabre: Descended from duelling sabres of the late 19th century,
which were in turn descended from naval and cavalry swords, sabres
have a light, flat blade and a knuckle guard. Touches can be
scored with either the point or the edge of the blade, anywhere
above the opponent's waist. Sabre technique emphasises speed,
feints, and strong offense.
The most popular of eastern fencing techniques is kendo, the Japanese
"Way of the Sword". Kendo is fought with a bamboo shinai, intended
to resemble a two-handed Japanese battle sword. Combatants wear
armour, and strike to the top or sides of the head, the sides of the
body, the throat, or the wrists. Accepted technique must be
observed, and judges watch for accuracy, power, and spirit. See the
Japanese Sword Arts FAQ for more information.
Other martial arts that include elements of swordsmanship are:
Aikido -- self defence against armed and unarmed attackers. Includes
using and defending oneself against Japanese sword techniques.
Arnis, Escrima, Kali -- Phillipino stick and knife disciplines.
Iaido -- the Japanese art of the sword draw (also Iaijutsu and
batto-jutsu, more combat-oriented variants of the same).
Jogo do Pau -- a Portuguese stick-fighting discipline.
Jojutsu -- a Japanese stick-fighting discipline.
Kalaripayitt -- includes sword and weapons techniques from south
Kenjutsu -- the unadulterated Japanese martial art of the sword.
Krabi Krabong -- a Thai martial art that includes many sword forms.
Kumdo -- A Korean variant of Kendo.
Kung-fu -- a Chinese martial art that includes many sword techniques.
La Canne -- French Boxing, with a single-handed stick, using
rules similar to classical fencing.
Le Baton -- similar to La Canne, but with a longer, 2-handed stick.
Maculele -- Afro-Brazilian machete forms, related to Capoeira.
Mensur -- German fraternity "duelling", with schlagers.
Modern Pentathlon -- the "soldier's medley", a sport that recreates
demands placed on a pre-20th century military messenger: running,
swimming, shooting, equestrian jumping, and epee fencing.
Pentjak Silat -- Indonesian arts that include sword and stick forms.
Single Stick -- an ancestor of sabre fencing, fought with a
basket-hilted wooden rod.
SCA duello -- rapier-like fencing in the round, with off-hand
techniques. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
SCA heavy lists -- medieval-style heavy combat, with rattan weapons,
armour, and shields. Additional info on the SCA can be found in the
Shinkendo -- real-sword-oriented variant of Kendo.
Tai Chi -- another Chinese martial art that includes many sword
1.2 How did fencing originate?
Swordfighting as sport has existed since ancient Egypt, and has
been practiced in many forms in various cultures since then.
Although jousting and tournament combat was a popular sport in
the European middle ages, modern FIE fencing owes more to
unarmoured duelling forms that evolved from 16th century rapier
Rapiers evolved from cut-and-thrust military swords, but were
most popular amongst civilians who used it for self-defence and
duelling. Rapiers were edged, but the primary means of attack was
the thrust. Rapier fencing spread from Spain and Italy to
northwest Europe, in spite of the objections of masters such as
George Silver who preferred traditional cutting weapons such the
English broad sword.
The Spanish school, under masters such as Narvaez and Thibault,
became a complicated and mystical affair whose geometrical
theories required much practice to master. Italian masters like
Agrippa and Capo Ferro developed a more pragmatic school in the
late 16th and early 17th centuries, introducing innovations such
as linear fencing and the lunge.
By the 18th century, the rapier had evolved to a simpler,
shorter, and lighter design that was popularized in France as the
small sword. Although the small sword often had an edge, it was
only to discourage the opponent from grabbing the blade, and the
weapon was used exclusively for thrusting. The light weight made
a more complex and defensive style possible, and the French
masters developed a school based on defence with the sword,
subtlety of movement, and complex attacks. When buttoned with a
leather safety tip that resembled a flower bud, the small sword was
known as le fleuret, and was identical in use to the modern foil
(still known as le fleuret in French). Indeed, the French small
sword school forms the basis of most of modern fencing theory.
By the mid-19th century, duelling was in decline as a means of
settling disputes, partially because victory could lead to a jail
term for assault or manslaughter. Emphasis shifted to defeating
the opponent without necessarily killing him, and less fatal
duelling forms evolved using the duelling sword, or epee de terrain,
an unedged variant of the small sword. Later duels often ended
with crippling thrusts to the arm or leg, and fewer legal
difficulties for the participants. This is the basis of modern
Cutting swords had been used in bloodsports such as backsword
prizefights at least
read more »